China envoy warns of trade perceptions

A senior Chinese trade diplomat has expressed concern about Australian attitudes to investment from her country, noting that China's local business interests were much smaller than those from the US, Britain and Japan.

A senior Chinese trade diplomat has expressed concern about Australian attitudes to investment from her country, noting that China's local business interests were much smaller than those from the US, Britain and Japan.

Liu Yu, the commercial counsellor at China's consulate-general in Sydney, said at a China-Australia business conference last month she "still feels sad" about a 2012 Lowy Institute poll that found 56 per cent of Australians thought too much Chinese investment was permitted.

"The total size of Chinese investment covered a very small share of just 1 per cent in Australia's inbound investment," Ms Liu said, citing a 2012 report.

"In comparison, the US enjoys a share of 29 per cent, the UK 23 per cent and Japan 6 per cent ... Do you think this matches China's status as Australia's largest trading partner?"

A more recent Lowy Institute poll, released last week, found 57 per cent of Australians thought the federal government was allowing too much investment from China, with 41 per cent of respondents thinking it was likely the Asian giant would become a military threat to Australia in the next two decades.

Ms Liu said such perceptions "could be harmful to future development if ... not handled properly".

"China-Australia investment co-operation is not a zero sum game," she said, adding that Chinese companies were good corporate citizens, created jobs and were socially responsible in the countries in which they operated.

Ms Liu said she believed deeper Chinese investment in Australia would benefit local communities.

Audit and advisory firm KPMG said China's total accumulated investment in Australia reached $US51 billion at the end of 2012.

The Australia head of HSBC Bank, Tony Cripps, said recently he expected Chinese investment in Australian agriculture to grow significantly.

Food-related exports are expected to increase by 45 per cent by 2025, with Asia, and particularly China, playing a central role.

Foreign investment in farming has been a sensitive issue. About 11 per cent of Australia's farming land - about 45 million hectares - was at least partly foreign owned, 2011 figures show.

BusinessDay was a sponsor of Australia-China Business Week.

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